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Pew Group with Adam and Eve

'Pew Group' with Adam and Eve
'Pew Group' with Adam and Eve

Though commonly called 'pew groups', the seated, white-glazed ceramic figures made in Staffordshire in the mid-eighteenth century are not in fact perched on church pews, but on the kind of high-backed settle commonly found in inns at the time. There are several examples in which anonymous men and women sit rather formally side by side. In a pew group from the Fitzwilliam [C.779-1928], a man plays the bagpipes, while his wife pets a dog on her lap.

The example illustrated in the margin here is unique in being the only surviving pew group to have a Biblical subject. Adam and Eve stand beside the Tree of Knowledge, abundant with flowers and forbidden fruit. The provocateur of Eve's sin, the serpent, twists around the trunk, his head unfortunately now snapped off.

Rather like the work of Thomas Toft [C.207-1928], a Staffordshire potter from two generations earlier, the charm of this piece lies in its apparent naivety. It is hard to believe that the effect is intended to be anything other than comic.

Eve, created from Adam's rib, is considerably taller than her partner and the expression on her face is particularly gormless. Two dark spots mark her cheeks as though she is blushing, and both figures hold their hands self-consciously over their naked torsos. They already wear hastily made skirts of leaves. Is this the moment when, having eaten of the forbidden fruit, they become aware of their nakedness?

There is something witty about making a clay image of Adam, the first man, whom God himself created from earth. But the technique here is very simple: the clay has simply been rolled and then modelled by hand. The body of the serpent, for instance, is a simple 'sausage' of rolled clay; the fruits are simple spheres rolled between the fingers.

Themes and periods

Data from our collections database

White salt-glazed stoneware, moulded and hand-modelled figure group of 'The Fall' with eyes in brown slip

White salt-glazed stoneware, hand-modelled with details in brown slip. Adam and Eve are standing in front of a high-backed settle on either side of a stylized tree with applied apples and leaves, and the serpent coiled round the lower part of the trunk. Eve holds an apple in her hand. Both are clothed in a short skirt of leaves. The eyes of both and blushes on the cheeks of Eve are rendered in spots of dark brown slip.

Turner Collection, Loughborough; Cyril Andrade, Ryder Street, London, from whom purchased on 31 October 1913 for £380 by Dr J.W.L. Glaisher in London, 1913

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest

Acquisition and important dates

  • Method of acquisition: Bequeathed
  • Dates: 1928

Dating

Judging by the blushing cheeks and well-developed breasts, the larger figure on the right is Eve.

This pew group is the only one known which does not show figures in contemporary costume.

Maker(s)

Note

Judging by the blushing cheeks and well-developed breasts, the larger figure on the right is Eve.

This pew group is the only one known which does not show figures in contemporary costume.

Measurements and weight

  • 18.3
  • 17.3

Materials used in production

Techniques used in production

Associated department: Applied Arts

Identification numbers

  • Accession number: C.777-1928
  • Primary reference Number: 76039
  • Old object number: 3673
  • Stable URI

Stories, Contexts and Themes

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